No matter where you go for your first year of college, sometimes the fit just isn’t right. Maybe it was your dream school that didn’t end up being so dreamy. Maybe it wasn’t your first choice, and despite hoping for the best, you still wish you had gone elsewhere. While you hope whatever school you end up at will be a perfect fit, the reality is that no matter how carefully you may have made your decision, you still may desire something else. In this situation, your best option is applying to transfer to another school. When considering transfer options, one of the first questions that may arise  is, “can I apply to transfer to a school I was rejected from as a senior?”

The short answer is yes, you can! Rejection the first time around doesn’t necessarily mean you’re unequivocally unqualified for the school in question. Rather, it means that, out of the pool of applicants that year, your application did not reflect that you were best suited to attend.

There is no way to tell why you weren’t accepted, and that factor may no longer be an issue  in the next round of admissions. This is especially true if you had a hard time in high school, but performed better in college. Transfer admissions place a heavy emphasis on your performance in college, so your high school record and activities matter much less. That said, it means you must have an extremely strong academic record at your current college before applying to transfer. It goes without saying that if you want to transfer to a school from which you were initially rejected, you will need to ensure that your college transcript and extracurricular activities represent an improvement from high school.

Transfer Admissions are Competitive

If you’re considering applying as a transfer student to a school that rejected you, it’s important to know that transfer admissions are almost always much more competitive than regular freshman admissions. Because colleges admit nearly full classes, there simply is not enough room to accept a lot of new students by the time sophomore or junior years roll around.

To make matters more difficult, top-tier colleges and universities have very high graduation rates – usually upwards of 98% – so while other schools may have more space available on account of drop-outs, there are very few such openings at top colleges. . According to the Harvard College transfer admissions website, there is a pattern of accepting only twelve or so transfer applicants as students each year out of nearly 1,500 applicants. Most Ivy Leagues and top-tier schools also have transfer acceptance rates lower than 10% yearly. Clearly, to get in, you have to really stand out from other applicants.

How to Be an Extraordinary Applicant

How can you make yourself a extraordinary applicant? Identify your weaknesses from the first round of applications and correct them. While you cannot know for sure why you were not accepted the first time, you can evaluate what could be stronger in your application. If colleges see improvement, they will recognize that you are a serious and committed student. Colleges want their students to succeed – show them that you can and will. For example, if you know that you generally shied away from difficult classes in high school, preferring to take an easy course load and breeze through it, be sure your college transcript demonstrates a willingness to challenge yourself and work hard.

Because of the increased competitiveness of transfer admissions, this time around, your grades and extracurricular activities need to be stronger. Get involved in extracurricular activities and take on leadership positions. Make sure you are choosing hard classes and getting good grades in them. Furthermore, make sure you choose classes that align with your larger academic goals for college. If someone were to ask you why you were taking each class, be able to explain how they support your vision for college, your major, and your career.

Additionally, do not forget about letters of recommendation! You will need professors at your current college to speak to your abilities in a college setting. Be sure to identify professors who could make good recommenders, especially those in the area of your potential major. Not only will you need to prove yourself to be a good student in class, but you will also need to cultivate a relationship with them. Going to office hours is often the best way to do this, but there are other possibilities. For more information on building a strong relationships with your recommenders, check out this College Vine Blog post here.

Clear Reason for Transferring

One of the most important steps of creating a successful transfer application is demonstrating that you have a clear, legitimate reason for transferring. Transfer admissions at Harvard College refers to this as, “a clearly defined academic need to transfer.” While some schools may not define the need to transfer as “academic” – there can be other motivations to transfer, including social and financial reasons – colleges and universities want serious students who will take advantage of their academic resources and contribute to their environment of learning. In your personal statement, you will need to illustrate that you are deeply invested in your education. Explain why their school is the best place for you to achieve these goals. Make them excited to see the work you will produce.

The admissions committee will have a lot of questions: why are you still interested in this school? How are you better qualified to succeed at this school now than you were before? How will this school be a better fit for you than your old school? Be sure to answer these questions through your essay, transcript, extracurricular activities, and letters of recommendation. If you can improve upon the previous weaknesses of your application and effectively communicate that this school is the best place for you to develop as a person and as a student, you will have gone a long way in showing the admissions committee why they should be eager to accept you as a student.

In conclusion, while transferring is difficult, it is certainly not impossible. Being rejected by a school in the first application process does not mean you cannot now get in. If you maintain high grades, participate and take on leadership positions in extracurricular activities, and convey to the admissions committee your academic goals that fit with the goals of their institution, your chances of being accepted as a transfer student will be greatly increased. Furthermore, there are many resources to help you in the process, including the CollegeVine Guide to Transferring. Additionally, fill out our free consultation form below to receive personalized assistance on your transfer process from one of our admissions specialists! 


Julia Mearsheimer

Julia Mearsheimer

Senior Blogger at CollegeVine
Julia Mearsheimer attends the University of Chicago. She is considering majoring in Philosophy, South Asian Languages and Civilizations, or Political Science, but remains undecided. In addition to writing, she enjoys listening to Nina Simone and baking bread.
Julia Mearsheimer